The Israel Tourism Ministry has begun its preparations for Pope Benedict XVI’s May visit to Israel.

In order to leverage the visit and promote Christian tourism to Israel, the Tourism Ministry held a conference this week with representatives of the tourism industry to discuss the required activities. Participants included, among others, incoming tour operators specializing in the Christian market, the Israel Hotel Association and representatives of the municipalities that will be included in the pope’s itinerary.

In addition, the ministry will invest 6 million shekels in renovations and preparations at Christian sites in Israel, including Qasr el-Yahud, the Good Samaritan site, the Cenacle (site of the Last Supper), the Jesus Trail and more. During the last decade, the ministry has invested tens of millions of shekels in developing sites including, among others, the Mount of Olives Promenade, Via Dolorosa and Christian trails in Jerusalem, Nazareth and around the Sea of Galilee.

Tourism Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila said:

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“The pope’s visit to the Holy Land is an important and very significant visit that represents a strategic anchor for pilgrimage tourism to Israel in the coming years. The atmosphere of understanding, reconciliation and peace between peoples and religions that the pope inspires will contribute to a strengthening of Israel’s image and encourage pilgrimages and tourism to Israel, especially in this period when the tourism industry is dealing with the ramifications of the global economic crisis.”

Three million tourists visited Israel in 2008, of whom 1 million were pilgrims (2 million Christians in all).

David Bedein can be reached at


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David Bedein
David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: and A new site,, will be launched very soon.